The Institute of Social Sciences was registered under the Societies Registration Act of India 1860 on 28 August 1985. D.T. Lakdawala, renowned economist and former Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Government of India was the first Chairman and Dr. George Mathew was the Founder Director of the Institute. The first governing body of the Institute met on 1 September 1985 under the chairmanship of D.T. Lakdawala and the Institute started functioning at B-7/81, Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi and continued till April 1999. From May 1, 1999, it moved to its own premises at 8 Nelson Mandela Road, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi- 110070, near Jawaharlal Nehru University.
The Institute of Social Sciences was motivated and driven by the urgency of intertwining participatory democracy with development. It is a think tank and a resource centre on local democracy, democratic decentralization, human rights and women’s political empowerment at grassroots level. Its numerous researches, advocacy through conferences, seminars and workshops, monitoring of government policies through public interest litigations and other direct forms of interventions have received considerable acclaim nationally and internationally.